Top 20 restaurants, Food and Wine Annual 2014: number 11.
Les Bistronomes is like an amalgam of Pulp Kitchen and Sage, all in one happy and well-targeted package in one seriously food-obsessed part of town. This all bodes well for Clement Chauvin's first solo venture in Canberra, as chef and owner of his own French bistro.
Chauvin came to town with Sage (before he moved to Waters Edge), and the upmarket, produce-obsessed approach of Sage is clearly reflected in the food at Les Bistronomes, which is a little bit fancy despite its determination to remain accessible and relaxed. Which is where the Pulp Kitchen comparison comes in. It's not as grungy as the Ainslie French bistro, nor as likely to serve you a hunk of liver, mushrooms and bacon, but it has the same focus on simple (sort of) French dishes in a small menu and small space.
Les Bistronomes is at its best in dishes like the bouillabaisse, a shared bowl of rich fish stew, with carefully chosen and handled fish and seafood, including scallops, snapper and a yabby with its tail shelled to perfection so you don't need to get messy eating it. Alongside is a board of great charred toasts and a rouille, a rich mayonnaise. This is a very good dish, and right for sharing. I imagine you might find the same joy in the other shared dish – beef Wellington.
Duck is much more fancily plated, but the simplicity and distinction of the flavours make up for this fussiness, and with the orange sauce, a sauce spiced with star anise, the red cabbage and the shredded duck "sausage" alongside the breast, it's a very god dish.
Desserts are complex and very pretty, making use of the flower petals that add a whimsical touch to many of the dishes. The wine list is Australian and French, the set-up is simple, with smart striped chairs and a pull-aside glass folding wall on to the Braddon pavement. In all, a welcome addition to a busy scene.
8/36 Mort Street, Braddon. 6248 8119. lesbistronomes.net
Owners Abel Barriler and Clement Chauvin; chef Clement Chauvin.
Lunch noon-2pm Tuesday to Saturday. Dinner 6pm-9.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. Brunch 9am-2.30pm Sunday.